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    Australia’s oldest architecture dynasty, Wilson Architects celebrates 130 years [Video]

    Nathan Johnson

    Since Alex B. Wilson founded Wilson Architects in 1884, three additional generations of his family have continued in his footsteps in shaping the city and suburbs of Brisbane, Queensland.

    130 continuous years as a family-led architectural practice makes the firm the oldest architectural dynasty the country has seen.

    The firm’s design legacy includes the Plough Inn (1885) the iconic Cliffside Apartments at Kangaroo Point (1936) and the redevelopment of the University of Queensland’s Mayne Hall, but they are also still designing.

    At the beginning of July Architecture & Design reported that the firm had won an international design competition to design the new Miri City Hall in Sarawak, Malaysia.  

    In June Wilson Architects also won the Public Architecture Award at the 2014 State Architecture Awards for their design of Education Central at James Cook University's Townsville campus. 

    Throughout their century in the profession the firm has adapted and shown changes in their design focus according to place, time and context. In 2005 the firm upped its staffing role and quickly outgrew its offices which they had purchased back in 1959. By 2010 their new self-designed offices were complete and the rebuild was awarded with a host of QLD Architecture and interior design awards. 

    Images clockwise top-right: The Wilson office fitout, Beth Wilson and Hamilton Wilson.

    Following the retirement of founder Alex B. Wilson, his grandson Blair took the reins and quickly developed an affirmation with educational projects. He introduced ‘flexibility of space’ thinking in the planning of new buildings on Queensland campuses including the University of Queensland, Griffith University and Queensland Institute of Technology.

    Beth Wilson joined her husband Blair at the firm in 1971 and brought her an emphasised focus on landscape architecture. Beth is responsible for such works as Suncorp Stadium, the Queen Street Mall and the redevelopment of the City Botanical Gardens.

    Blair and Beth’s son Hamilton Wilson is now in control of the firm, and since his takeover in 1995, has led an era focussed on behavioural architecture for the firm.  Hamilton's work understands the role that learning spaces, integrated with modern technology, play in influencing study behaviour and teacher/student interaction. Brisbane Grammar School’s Lilley Centre (Below) and the Translational Research Facility at the Princess Alexandra Hospital campus (above) illustrate design solutions that have been created to help facilitate the diverse study behaviours of today's students.

    In an interview with Architecture & Design, Hamilton explains that although he wasn’t pressured into joining the family business, he was destined to pick up the drafting pen.

    “There was no expectation from my family that I would go into architecture but my interests were just naturally in that direction,” he said.

    “Because architecture was so very much a part of my family environment I didn’t have to think very hard about it to know that it was what I wanted to do.”

    In the short video below, ‘130 Years’  Hamilton Wilson reflects on his early life spent near the sea and the personal influences that have shaped his use of natural light and landscape architecture in many Wilson Architects projects:

    All Images supplied or courtesy of Wilson Architects.

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